We are slowly approaching the final version of the Red List of Serbian butterflies and drawing a clumsy borders of the protected areas within „Natura 2000“ network, an obligation given by the European Union (and these are the aims of projects financed by the Rufford fundation and Faculty of Biology that we are currently working on). The first step is digitalisation of current knowledge, thus we used the ongoing projects as an excuse to gather literature data and visit several butterfly collections
Faculty of Sciences and Mathematics from Niš, HabiProt and Biological society „Dr Sava Petrović“ took over the task for digitalisation of butterfly diversity. The last weekend was spent in Ada, small town by the Tisa river, visiting László Tóth that keeps extremely valuable collection of butterflies. Some butterflies are more than 50 years old and there is so much material in the collection that the whole two days were not enough to make a catalog of the butterflies. We already met László this summer, when we made a small quest for the Freyer’s purple emperor (Apatura metis).
László if full of anegdotes and life stories, that would came to life if someone reads carefully written localities from the small labels. Since he served the army in 1960 in Prizren, a part of his collection originate from the region of Kosovo and Metohia. And after the military service, László had to explain to the commanders of the Yugoslavian army about those strange insects in his bag and why are they collected. Also he got a large number of of butterflies from his friend Frank János, that also collected butterflies during the military service in Drniš (Dalmatia). As László’s story tells, János caught butterflies with his military shirt and sent them to Ada by post. Even today all samples are well preserved and they look as if they were caught by the finest entomological net. Some of the butterflies László got as a gift and the others were flying with him on the plain from Canada and Australia.
Still, the largest part of the László’s collection originate from Ada, his birthplace where the author would love to donate this cultural and scientific heritage. Beside butterflies and moths, the collection accounts 174 prepared bird species, a collection of eggs from more than 100 species and many other animals. This collection has already being suggested for protection as natural monument. It is interesting that butterflies were collected only when László would estimate that there are a lot of individuals and that collecting would not harm their populations. He dreams of turning this collection into a museum, but says that there is no understanding for such need in his municipality. Still he would love for collection to stay in Ada as the symbol of a different time, as the witness of biodiversity that once existed in those few kilometers of a shore following Tisa river. Please contact us if you have any idea how to make this dream into reality. It would be a great win for Laszlo and a huge contribution to for the science.
All in all, this was and amazing weekend. Hours and hours were spent in browsing the collection and writing down the labels, with a few short breaks for a tea or a coffee. And since the job in such a valuable collection has never bean complete we will spent some more time with charismatic Tóth family. We only hope that someone will help that to preserve this collection from oblivion and receive a place in Ada as it deserves.
Taxt and photos: Ivan Tot, David Grabovac, Miloš Popović